ATLANTA -- For the first time since they were swept from every statewide office, the Democrats have a nominee who has outpaced a Republican incumbent in fundraising, according to figures filed last week with the state ethics commission.
Steve Oppenheimer, a retired Atlanta dentist, reports raising a total of $181,409 in his quest to unseat GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton on the Public Service Commission, who has raised $180,100 so far, half of it last year.
The difference in pace is more pronounced in the latest reporting period. Oppenheimer claims $51,000 to Eaton’s $31,000.
A closer look shows that one-third of what Eaton got came from nine out-of-state donors while Oppenheimer only got 6 percent of his from beyond Georgia.
The amount of donations below $101 also illustrates their differences. Many political observers like to say that small contributions suggest which candidate has the most appeal with ordinary voters.
In that department, Eaton only claims $125 while Oppenheimer reports $9,190.
One-quarter of what the incumbent got came from lawyers for or executives of industries connected with those the commission regulates. On the other hand, Oppenheimer drew heavily from labor unions, environmentalists and solar-energy supporters.
In the three-way contest for that seat, Libertarian Brad Ploeger has collected just shy of $1,000.
In the other seat up for grabs this fall, Republican Stan Wise is dominating the money race with $430,000 total, but he had garnered $300,000 of that before the year started.
His opponent, Libertarian David Staples, has raised just $7,000.
They five may be running statewide for the chance to regulate key utilities and oversee construction of the nation’s newest reactors, but the quintet of candidates for the Public Service Commission have raised about as much money for their campaigns as a legislative hopeful.
Combined, the five candidates have raised a total of $800,000, that’s counting what Wise raised before the start of this year. That won’t go far in a statewide campaign.
On the outgo side of the latest reports, Eaton and Wise chose to spend most of theirs for automated phone calls and mailers. Oppenheimer has spent most of his on consultants, a poll that he hasn’t made public and cards to hand out when meeting voters in person. He also paid to tape a video but doesn’t show buying any time to air it on television.
Of the candidates, Wise has spent the most, and only has $2,800 in the bank. Eaton still has $56,000 in cash, and Oppenheimer has $90,000 waiting to be spent.